Artist Statement: Alec Soth

A critic once pointed out to me the different ways in which I photograph men and women. With men I seem to be poking fun, he said, whereas my depiction of women is more reverent. He makes a good point. Many of my best pictures of men are playful (a man in a flight suit holding model airplanes, a shirtless man with carrots in his ears). But the women I photograph look more like saints than clowns.  As a man, I suppose, I identify more with my male subjects. In them, I see my own awkwardness and frailty. Women are always “the other.”

In assembling this group of portraits of women, I’m aware that I’m treading on dangerous ground. When I was in college, I learned to be distrustful of men’s depictions of women. I remember seeing Garry Winogrand’s book Women Are Beautiful in the school library and being shocked that it hadn’t been defaced for its blatant objectification of women. But looking back, maybe I was too harsh. Whether one photographs men or women, it is always a form of objectification. Whatever you say about Winogrand, his depiction was honest.

In putting together a collection of my best portraits of women, I’m trying to come to terms with how I honestly see and depict women. Are my pictures romanticized? Sexualized? Why do I see women in this way? For me, photography is as much about the way I respond to the subject as it is about the subject itself.